Considering Community: What’s a social-impact network?

Social in silico includes a series of occasional posts focused on community management tips and related information. I’m tagging these Considering Community and you can find all the posts in the series here.

What’s a social-impact network?

This week I’ve been reading “Connecting to change the world” by Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor and John Cleveland. It’s a focused, practical guide to building a very specific type of community – a social-impact network.

Whereas the word community has now been adopted for somewhat ambiguous use in a wide variety of scenarios involving groups of people, a social-impact network has a clear definition. It’s a collection of collaborators who are working together in some way to address a complex social issue.

Social-impact networks are self-organising – with decision-making distributed across the networks and with a structure that may change rapidly (such as the formation or closure of working groups).

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Community Manager musings: change agents by another name?

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

Last week I attended a super workshop on netweaving within and among STEM education networks – learning much about the literature and terminology of netweaving in the process.

From all I heard, netweavers are analogous to community managers with many skills and theories in common – just with different terms and disciplines (more on that need for synthesis across fields in another post).

I thought this description of the traits of a netweaver by Bruce Goldstein was particularly helpful for adding another layer to how we think about the people who build networks within science. Netweavers are:

  • experimental
  • comfortable with uncertainty
  • hungry for change
  • want to be a disruptive force from within

I particularly like how this list highlights traits that can be found in those people pushing for culture change, while working within established systems. We spent a lot of time during the mid-year meeting of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows talking about organisational structures and the challenges of negotiating culture change so the idea that the above traits are necessary in a community manager makes a lot of sense to me.

Do you identify yourself in this list of traits? Is there anything missing? Can all community managers also be described as change agents?